Local homeless shelter in need of help to sustain 24-hour operating hours

By Blake Schnitker on January 12 at 10:50am

One of Jacksonville’s most important warming shelters is in need of some financial assistance to meet community and workforce needs.

New Directions Warming and Cooling Center assists displaced homeless people in the Jacksonville and surrounding area with emergency shelter related needs such as food, bathing and a place to sleep. And with the blistering cold of winter now upon us, New Directions is taking in more displaced citizens and families than usual.

The extra traffic coming through New Directions has created the need for increased staff at the center, which in turn creates financial issues to be people to pay their employees sufficiently. The center’s Vanessa Tyus explains why the shelter is in need of assistance.

“What we’re trying to do is make sure that everyone stays safe. Not only that but continue our day services, we don’t want to just be able to provide a shelter, we want to be able to provide services. With the growing numbers we’ve had at New Directions, it’s going to take two people per shift. We have three shifts, so that makes six people, which adds up to $426 just for a 24-hour shift and taking care of the men, women and children in the shelter,” explains Tyus.

Tyus says New Directions has reached out to a number of donors and other local organizations for assistance.

“We have sent out support letters to some of our donors who have helped in the past and continue to help and to some of our local churches. I believe that New Directions is a community shelter because of the generosity of the men and women in our community, the businesses, the churches and the individuals, so we’ve reached out to them to see how they can help us maintain the 24-hour shelter,” Tyus says.

The issue was even brought up during this week’s Jacksonville city council meeting, as Mayor Andy Ezard laid out the situation at New Directions and asked both the council and those in attendance for ideas as to how the city can help.

Ezard says Jacksonville is fortunate to even have a place such as New Directions, and feels that providing shelter to the locally displaced is an issue the council should look into.

“It is a city issue, because when folks are displaced during the day, there’s more demand on our police department, more demand on our churches, more demand on the hospital, there’s just a lot of things that go along with that that would need to be addressed. We’re really fortunate that New Directions was established and the job that they’ve done for our community, but they need some help. But it is a city issue and I think we will discuss that and send it to the special studies committee and have them sit down with Vanessa (Tyus) and members of the community and see what we can do to help them,” says Ezard.

Without getting the current staffing issue resolved, New Directions will be forced to change their hours from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. rather than their usual 24-hour services..